You’re hanging out with your guy.
You’re relaxing together, chatting about nothing in particular.
He’s telling a story, and you’re half-paying attention…
When suddenly your mind catches up to the words that just came out of his mouth.
You freeze. Did he just say what you think he said?
What was he thinking? What a thing to say to you!
You glance over. He’s still rambling on. He doesn’t seem to have noticed your reaction.
- Assume you misunderstood him?
- Tell yourself you’re overreacting?
- Say nothing because you’ll just get into an argument?
- Call him out on it?
It’s hard to know which is the better option, isn’t it?
Every relationship has moments like these…
Moments where your relationship doesn’t feel loving at all.
How should you respond when your guy says or does something hurtful—and he doesn’t even realize it?
Let’s find out how to deal with micro-rejections.
Subtle Signs That He Doesn’t Care
Micro-rejections are those tiny moments when you feel like your partner is rejecting you, even if you can’t put a finger on why you feel that way.
Maybe he didn’t seem happy when you shared your good news.
Maybe he ignored you when you asked him a question.
Maybe he seemed more interested in the game than hearing the story of your day.
These moments are so subtle that they hardly seem worth bothering about.
After all, it’s not like he’s being blatantly rude to you. He’s just being thoughtless.
But, over time, micro-rejections can lead to a pervasive feeling that your partner doesn’t care about you anymore.
Why Micro-Rejections Matter
There’s a reason we react so strongly to micro-rejections.
Human beings evolved to be super-sensitive to signs of social disconnection.
We perceive any form of rejection as a threat.
And any time we face a threat, our nervous system prepares for confrontation. We become poised to fight, flee, freeze, or fawn.
This is why a rude or uncaring comment can make you feel:
- Angry and ready to argue (“fight”)
- Like you want to run away and escape the situation (“flee”)
- Like your brain has gone blank (“freeze”)
- Anxious to placate him and smooth things over (“fawn”)
Which do you think is your default response?
Should I Be Worried?
The problem with these threat responses is that they rarely make the situation better.
Often, your guy didn’t mean anything by what he said or did.
He wasn’t paying attention. He didn’t think it through. He was in a mood.
If you react with anger, it only escalates the situation.
There’s a better way of responding, which I’ll share with you in just a moment.
But first, it’s important to note that some people are more sensitive to signs of rejection than others.
Lonely people, for example, are more likely to perceive a neutral facial expression as hostile.
Compared to more socially connected people, lonely people are more likely to assume they’re being rejected even when they’re not.
If you have an anxious attachment style, or you’ve experienced trauma in the past, or you have certain mental health conditions (including bipolar, anxiety, and ADHD), you may perceive signs of rejection more often.
This is called rejection sensitivity.
Rejection sensitivity can make being in a relationship more difficult, because you’re constantly reading his behavior for signs he’s no longer interested.
You need a way to manage your reaction to perceived rejection, so that you respond appropriately without overreacting.
Try Saying This
Let’s go back to the opening scenario.
You’re with your guy, and he’s just said something you find hurtful. He doesn’t seem to have noticed the effect his words had on you. What do you do?
You may instinctively want to react by calling him out angrily or stewing in silence. Your default threat response kicks in.
Instead of giving into that reaction, try taking a deep breath and saying:
“Hold on a second. I just had this weird reaction to what you said. Let me sit for a moment to figure out what’s going on for me.”
This gives you a moment to check in with yourself.
Are you overreacting? Are you being triggered? What are you telling yourself about what his comment really meant?
If you’re feeling anxious or flooded, go inward and focus your attention on where those sensations are located in your body. That can help you feel more grounded.
From that more grounded place, explain to him what’s going on inside you. You’re not calling him out; you’re helping him understand why you suddenly reacted with discomfort.
Most guys want to know if something they said or did made you uncomfortable. They just don’t want to be made into the bad guy.
Micro-rejections are part of every relationship, but they don’t have to threaten your connection. Use them as an opportunity to communicate so they can bring the two of you closer.